Monday, 24 February 2014

My first rocket alert.

10.05am. I just woke up a couple of minutes ago, I'm still half asleep, laying in my bed when suddenly the sirenss go off, I've never heard the rocket attacks alarm but after 20 seconds of listening to the loud thing I'm pretty sure it can only be that.
What do I do? What do I do? My brain is panicking to find a solution. I look out the window and people seem very calm about it, no one is running, two guys are on the rooftop of the opposite building, overlooking the streets. I admire these people who can stay very calm with this amazingly loud sirens.
Is this really an alert? Should I go find a shelter? Where and how do I find a shelter? Why doesn't anyone tell newbies where the next shelter is?
Let's stay very calm in my bed.

After 5 minutes the sirens stop, the loudness of busy Jerusalem slowly starts again. I reach for my laptop and google sirens and Jerusalem. Nothing. I alter my search a few times, still nothing. Should this be alarming?
I calm down, start reading Haaretz about a completely different subject and in the corner of my street I finally find my answer. It was just a drill, for school children and teachers. You'd think they'd tell the public in advance so as to avoid panicky  people.

I guess the good thing is next time I know what the sirens mean (God forbids there is a next time), and I can then panic about finding shelter.

Have a good day everyone! May it be siren free!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The world is fine!

Here's my latest human interaction which happened on my way back from the shop (out of grape water!!!).

"Hey, are you looking for a job?"
"Uhm no, I have a job"
"Oh, what do you do?"
"I'm a journalist."
"What's your name?"
"Nice to meet you, my name is..." (I forgot his name already damn me)
"Nice to meet you too"
"You're very pretty, can I take you out sometime?"
"Erm thanks but I'm taken"
"Of course! If you hadn't been taken, there would be something wrong with the world, you're too pretty."

So don't worry, the world is just fine! Ah, Israeli guys... always trying to chat girls up! So many guys wanted to be my best friends...

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Day 37/Rant

When talking about homophobia and horrible countries that pass anti-gay laws we often think about Putin's Russia, Uganda, Mugabe, and such. These places are more or less far and their society are perceived as traditional, old fashion, nothing like our Western society that is so amazing.

Yet we needn't look so far from home... We forget homophobia is on the rise everywhere, even in Europe. I feel awful whenever I tell my girlfriend I can't hold her hand when we're walking in the centre of Brussels, the capital of Europe. She doesn't hold it against me but I get angry at our society where I can't feel safe because of who I love.

A week after Kansas almost did the same but gave up at the last minute, Arizona passed a bill that would allow businesses to refuse to serve or give medical treatment to gays on religious grounds. First off if you want to get biblical, according to the scriptures, you should hate the sin, not the sinner (Matthew 5:43-44, 6:14-15, and plenty over other verses would help make a good judgement) and besides, didn't Jesus hang out with the worst sinners, wasn't he kind to each and everyone of them?

Then I can see the signs that would hang on the cafes', restaurants', medical clinics' doors; "No Gays Allowed." And that brings at least two images in my mind: one is WWII when signs like "No Jews allowed" were common and the American racial segregation era where not the Jews but the Blacks this time were the victims of such injustice. There are more examples,like the South African Apartheid, French Algeria, etc. All these periods are not so far from us in our past though. We sometimes hear the motto "Never Again" when learning about these events, which is fair enough but what does it mean? Does "Never Again" mean that we should never victimise the same group of people and that we should find someone else? (I know that's not true because anti-Semitism is also on the rise in Europe).
We often justify the teaching of these facts in school by the theory that no one should forget because these parts of History should not be repeated. it seems to me that not everyone got the memo...

Now, although the bill will probably not be passed into law (touch wood), it is extremely scary that a lot of people still think that way in 2014, to think that someone would [legally or not] choose not to save my life because of who I love. America likes to criticise other countries for their inequalities (gender, freedom of speech, etc.) but instead of creating inequalities at home, wouldn't it be wiser to help end them elsewhere? Just a thought...

This makes me terribly sad and mad, and in the words of Sookie Saint James, I'm smad. I'll return to my natural optimism later though...

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

Monday, 17 February 2014

"What is your name?"

"What is your name?" is always the first question I get when an official opens my passport in Israel, looking at me with this incredulous look on their face, eyebrows raised, waiting for my confirmation that my name is Surya which to them, pronounced the way my parents call me, sounds like the word for Syria in both Arabic and Hebrew. (What it really is, or the way my parents intended it anyway, is the sun)

Today I also learnt from someone that apparently, I look like what could be interpreted by many Israelis as a left-wing extremist student come to do activism in the country. And I certainly don't look like the typical intern that would walk into the office, which is a good thing. I do agree, I don't like looking like the norm, I like looking like what I want to look like. Anyway, I was in no way offended by this, I found it rather amusing and very insightful.

I was told this, and it was later confirmed to me by someone else, as I said I was always detained at the airport security when I land in Israel. This is why I find it insightful because according to her the name has something to do with it but so does my look, which is a theory I do agree with as they notice me as soon as I step out of the plane.

They do this thing when they have someone wait at the end of the tunnel that connects your plane to the building and that person looks at the people coming out and calls the funny looking ones on the side. And so the first round of questioning begins, and so the famous first question is raised. I knew I must have had a certain look-type because I never fail to be chosen but now I know what I am probably classified as in their mind when they look at me.

What I have yet to find out is what about my look qualifies as left-wing extremist? It would be easier for you to picture it if I posted pictures of my clothes but I won't. I dress in a rather classical manner, sometimes hipster, sometimes tomboy, sometimes more feminine, it depends of my mood, the availability of my clothes and my degree of hurry.

And don't want to change my appearance though, but for my general knowledge I would like to find out, what in Israeli(/Middle Eastern) standards qualifies as a left-wing extremist activist student. If you have info regarding this, please share!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

"She's a good woman"

Women of Israel...

If you know them personally and have even the slightest relationship with them, they are truly awesome, the nation of Jewish mums. They will make sure you're fine all the time, worry for you ten times more than you if you have the slightest problem, they would send you to the doctor and force you to stay in bed if you coughed just once.


If you encounter them at work when they have to provide a service for you, forget it, you instantly become the most annoying creature on the planet.
It starts at the airport ID check when you arrive in Tel Aviv. If you are a woman (yes because I've never experienced any of these things as a man, I can't speak from that point of view, sorry) and you have an option, try to choose a man, they'll be nicer to you. The last time a guy sent me to the "waiting room" he apologised. But the women, they hate you, you're here to have some fun aren't you? Well I hate you, I'm not going to smile to you, be nice to you, I'll just send you to that room.

Then at the supermarket. I always smile and say hi with enthusiasm, no matter who, that's just me. The female cashiers have weird powers that make me feel bad as soon as I say hi and smile to them. You can barely hear their answer, that is if they even bother saying hello. They act as if you're a disgusting thing they must get rid of asap and if possible avoid looking at you any chance they have.

Then at the post office.
My mum sent me an awesome parcel the other day, it took me a few days and a lot of walking/travelling to different services to find it. Every time I had to deal with a woman, same thing, they probably felt I was sent as a test to them, the most annoying girl on earth, trying to find her mummy's parcel. Urgh. The initial answer is always no because if you are, as Cheryl would say, a giver-uperer, you will go away and never bother them again. If you are a determined person, which I can be, you insist. But be prepared to feel very unwanted, like a chewing gum stuck on someone's sole or something.
After running around Jerusalem, spending hours on public transport, walking like mad I finally found it though.

If they have the slightest power over you, if you depend on them, they hate you for it, you'd be better dead for them. Of course there are some exceptions to the rule. Very rarely. But there are some.

Always choose the men. Again, talking as a lone woman here, I don't know what applies for groups or men.

At the airport, they are less likely to send you to the "waiting room" and if they do, they apologise!
At the supermarket, the cashiers are most likely to be women but if you need info in the shop, ask a man.
At the post office, same. The kindest and most helpful people to me during my parcel adventure were the male security guards.
If you smile at them and are nice, they'll help or try to anyway.

When I finally got to my parcel's final destination I was happy to find only men, I was in a parcel warehouse thing, a guy brought me to an office at the back of the building. The guy behind the desk brought me my parcel. "Who sent you this?" "my mum" "Well, she's a good woman."
She is.

I realise this might be a slightly sexist post but all the things I just said are my own experience, I've been in Israel a few times now and have spent quite some time here, this has always been the case for me.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Apology, this service will resume shortly.

I have not abandoned you, dear reader, or this blog. As you may know I moved houses last week and I am currently out of an internet connection, this issue will be settled at the beginning of the week. Just so you know I have a ton of subjects I want to write about that I will eventually write as soon as my connection issues are settled.

I apologise for any inconvenience.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Shabbat is coming!

Shabbat is in the air!

It's Friday, it's 4pm and I need to rush to my friends' flat if I want to make it in time to cook for Shabbat.

I get out of my shoebox (I finally moved in) which is near the Old City, and start my 30-minute-long walk. The streets are packed, everyone is in their best attire, walking towards the Old Jerusalem to pray at the Western Wall. Orthodox, young and old, men wear their best looking hat over their yarmulkas, their leather shoes are as shiny as ever. More moderate people are still wearing their best clothes. I'm not though, I was rushing and now I feel a little out of place, going to schul in sneakers is not the best idea I've ever had. But they're the most comfortable shoes to walk in, shouldn't that count on Shabbat? Everyone looks serene, happy.

The roads are packed too, everyone is commuting to where they need to be before Shabbat starts (Approximately 4.30pm). I'm out of the centre, walking by the parks. For once, their full of people. The Arabs take the opportunity to gather in the parks while they're "free". Children are playing on the grass, adults are chatting, laughing, preparing their Friday night barbecue. They too seem happy.

You can feel the Shabbat in the air. Everyone relaxes.

Tonight I'm going to the Mizrahim Orthodox schul down the street with my hosts, I've never been to one. An interesting experience.

The next morning, in the same parks, the Falachas (The black Jews from Ethiopia) will celebrate weddings, all dressed in white and light colours. Many people will take the day to go out as a family, taking long walks in the sun. It feels like a national holiday, well it kind of is, but it happens every week.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend for those in the Diaspora, and Shavuah tov for those who are here!

(I apologise for disappearing but I don't have internet at my new place, which is quite horrible)